by Anria Lalumin

Popcorn and Movies

Duo started out thinking his Christmas was going to be miserable.

It wasn't that he didn't have friends. He did. It wasn't that he was unlikeable. He knew was. It wasn't that he gave off a ‘Leave-Me-Alone' vibe the way Heero did -- the day he did would be the day Trowa got Quatre to stop blaming himself for everything. But still, he found himself sitting on the couch in the apartment he shared with three of the other pilots on Christmas Eve thinking he would be spending Christmas alone.

It wasn't his fault. He had no family, so that was ruled out immediately. Heero had been dragged into being Relena's bodyguard after the wars, and during the past three years after the Mariemeia incident he had found himself being evermore drawn to her, and now they were officially dating. Duo was glad for his friend, even if he didn't know what Heero saw in her. So Heero, one of the people Duo shared an apartment with, was off with Relena for Christmas, acting as both bodyguard and date.

Trowa was off somewhere with Quatre, the blond boy being the only one who didn't live with the rest of them, WEI having taken up too much of his time and his sisters having interfered with his personal life to the degree that although he wanted to stay with them, he just couldn't. Duo had been invited to go along with them, but he knew that since the two were planning a quiet Christmas he would be the third wheel. And that was one feeling he detested and since he knew the two would be secretly relieved, he'd declined.

Wufei -- well, he'd never gotten along with Wufei to begin with, although the boy wasn't that bad, but anyway the Chinese boy had a mission for the Preventers. Duo shook his head just thinking about it. Someone always got roped into working on Christmas, although his acceptance of the mission might have had something to do with the fact that Sally and Zechs were going on it too. Wufei had always confused Duo, but the only thing that remained clear was that the other pilot had a bond with both of them, although whether that had something to do with physical attraction, friendship, or in the case of Zechs, a shared respect for Treize, he had no idea. What it boiled down to was that it was Christmas and Duo was alone.

This conspired to make him very depressed.

It wasn't so much that he was religious, or that he wanted presents all that much, but the American had always had a desire for human contact, and Christmas was very special to him as both Solo and Father Maxwell and Sister Helen had gone out of their way and done what they could to make the holiday special. Solo had once saved up enough from his thefts to legally buy him something (that something ended up being a candied apple that was demolished within five seconds of Duo seeing it) and Father Maxwell and Sister Helen had, while too poor to buy any presents had taught him carols and how important it was to spend Christmas with people who cared.

If it was like before and for the first bit of the war, Duo wouldn't have cared. When there were no people to care about him, then it didn't matter if he spent Christmas with anyone. But now he knew he had friends who cared about him, and it tore at him to know that despite that he would be spending Christmas alone.

And so Duo stayed in the apartment, watching old Disney movies so he could sneer at the naïveté it embodied along with occasional comedy, and resigned himself to spend Christmas alone and miserable. He fell asleep in front of the TV while it was playing to most nauseating of all films, Bambi. He expected to be alone for the next day or two at least.

Which was why he was shocked to be startled from his sleep when the door opened and someone crashed -- literally -- onto the apartment floor.

Jolting awake, Duo jumped to his feet and reached for one of the slender blades hidden in his hair when he saw from the glow of the TV that the figure lying motionless on the floor was none other than Wufei.

Rolling his eyes, he walked over to the other pilot. "Hey, Wu-man, whatcha doin' comin' crashing in here at -- " he checked his watch " -- three in the morning?"

There was a muffled groan coming from Wufei's face, which was currently buried in the carpet.

Duo grinned and grabbed him by the arm, slinging it across his shoulders and levering the Chinese boy to his feet. "C'mon, man, I'll get you to bed," he said, half-supporting and half-dragging the exhausted boy across the communal room of the apartment to his bedroom.

Wufei almost fell off Duo, and sprawled inelegantly across the bed made with military precision, an arm flung over his eyes and snores rattling Duo's eardrums. He was out cold.

Duo grinned down at the Chinese boy, who was completely unaware of how adorable he looked in that position, rumpled Preventer uniform and all. He tugged the other boy's boots off and made his way out of the room, shutting the door on Wufei's snores. Turning into the communal room and the static that registered on the TV screen, he found he couldn't stop grinning.

Even if it was only Wufei, he wouldn't be alone for Christmas.

+

The next morning saw Duo rise bright and early -- not that he didn't usually. Habits ingrained during the war and throughout training were terribly difficult to get rid of, he found. Which made it all the funnier and all the more irritating when Wufei or Heero commented that his room was tidy and that he could actually cook a semi-decent meal. Of course, semi-decent for those two was like 5 star for anyone else, even Quatre.

Duo figured that after his exhaustion yesterday, Wufei was likely to sleep well past his usual rising time of five am. Keeping this in mind, he began preparing a cooked breakfast in the English style of sausages, bacon, eggs, cooked tomatoes and mushrooms as well as toast and jam in time for the other boy's waking.

He had timed it perfectly, it seemed, as Wufei, yawning hugely and still in the rumpled uniform he had worn yesterday padded out on his sock-clad feet into the communal room his nose apparently having led him as he made his way unerringly to the semi-enclosed kitchen while rubbing his hands over his eyes.

"Mornin', Fei," Duo greeted him cheerily. "You're just in time for breakfast. How'd the mission go?"

Wufei grunted at the plate of food Duo shoved at him. "Waste of time," he muttered.

Duo's mouth twisted. Well, at least he'd answered semi-nicely, which Wufei normally wouldn't have bothered with. "So why aren't you with Sally or Zechs?" he asked.

"Sally wanted to go visit Une and Mariemeia, and I felt it would be inappropriate to accompany her. Zechs wished to spend time with Noin."

"Oh. Merry Christmas, Fei."

"My name is Wufei." With that Wufei shut up and began eating as though he hadn't in over a week. Duo rolled his eyes and shoved his food around on the plate with a fork. Somehow a Christmas alone was starting to seem more appealing.

Then Wufei spoke. "Merry Christmas, Duo," he said softly.

Duo blinked. "Uh -- you didn't call me Maxwell," he said.

It was Wufei's turn to blink. "I am sorry," he said. "I meant no disrespect."

Duo stared. "No, I mean -- disrespect?"

"Calling someone by their first name is disrespectful if not given permission," Wufei explained. "I apologize for any offence I may have given you." He made as if to stand.

"Wufei!" Duo's voice stopped him. "I meant to thank you for not calling me Maxwell. Far as I'm concerned, you can call me by my first name any time you want. It's nicer, y'know?"

Some measure of tension went out of Wufei's shoulders. He smiled at Duo somewhat hesitantly. "Thank you . . . Duo."

Duo grinned at him, and began eating with renewed vigor.

When they both had finished, Wufei said, "What do you want to do today?"

"You're asking me?" Duo was surprised.

Wufei raised an eyebrow. "As you pointed out, it is Christmas today, and that is a Christian holiday." He looked pointedly at Duo's now-bare neck. Duo flushed, remembering his dog collar.

"I dunno. . . . Make some popcorn and sit around all day watching old movies?"

"Sounds fine to me. However -- " here Wufei did the most undignified Duo had ever seen him do: he turned his head to the side and sniffed the vicinity of his armpit. " -- I believe I need a shower somewhat urgently."

Duo burst out laughing. "You go ahead, Wu-man," he said, still grinning. "I'll have the popcorn ready when you're done."

"Arigato, Ma -- Duo." With that, the Chinese boy turned and walked off in the direction of the bathroom. A few moments later the sounds of running water were heard.

True to his word, Duo not only had the popcorn ready by the time he came back, but had also put an old comedy entitled "George of the Jungle" in the player and was ensconced on the couch with various pillows arranged around him. Personally Duo was having difficultly believing that Wufei was being this nice, but he was going to take all the advantage of it he could.

When Wufei reappeared, clean and wearing a comfortable loose sweater and trousers, Duo felt like his jaw was going to come unhinged. His hair. He had let his hair down. As a result of being in a harsh ponytail for so long, it hung unflattering close to his scalp but past that flowed in inky blackness past his shoulders, far longer than Duo would have thought it was. It looked incredible.

"Why are you gaping like a fish, Maxwell?" Wufei asked irritably. Duo quickly shut his mouth.

"I've just never seen you with your hair down, that's all," he said, glad his voice didn't come out high-pitched and squeaky, as he had been half-afraid it would. "Your bowl of popcorn is on the side in the kitchen." Wufei retrieved said bowl and sat at the other end of the couch, watching the movie.

"You know, I've never seen the appeal of this movie," the Chinese boy commented suddenly.

"Two words for you, Wu-babe: Brendan Fraser."

"What has he got to do with anything? And don't call me Wu-babe."

"Whatever you say, Wu-chan. And there's two reasons -- 1: he pulls off the comedy really well in this movie, and 2: he's fucking gorgeous."

Wufei narrowed his eyes at the man on the screen, then shook his head. "I see the comedy, but I don't see the ‘fucking gorgeous', as you put it. And don't call me Wu-chan."

"Oh, come on, Wu-chan. Just look at those muscles. He's not scrawny, but it's not overdone either."

"Those muscles came from weights and exercise, not hard work."

"You're not one to talk. Your katas are exercise."

"My katas are necessary for my work. And they put oil on him to make his muscles stand out."

"So? He's still cute."

"Oh, only cute is it now Duo? His face looks half-finished."

"You take that back!"

"I stand by my words."

"Fine! Take that!" With that, Duo threw a handful of popcorn at Wufei.

"BAKA! Keep your popcorn to yourself!" In retaliation, Wufei threw a handful at Duo.

"HEY! That went in the braid! Prepare to die!"

The two abandoned the popcorn and grabbed a pillow each, then began swinging the unwieldy objects at each other. Duo was giggling insanely, and when he caught sight of Wufei, the other boy had a broad grin on his face that was unlike anything he had ever seen before.

"Take that! And THAT!"

"Weakling!"

"Bwahahahaha! Shinigami lives, and his weapon of choice is the feather pillow!"

"You will not defeat me!"

"Wanna bet?"

"Sure. You bet your popcorn, and I'll bet the ‘George of the Jungle' film."

"No fair! You don't like ‘George of the Jungle'!"

"That was the point, baka!"

They eventually calmed down -- or rather, Duo's pillow burst and he admitted defeat. Wufei got that smug look on his face at that, or at least he did until Duo stuffed a handful of popcorn down the back of his sweater. Aside from a few popcorn throwing fights, the rest of the day passed without any real fights, the two watching film after film with a running commentary from both ends of the couch.

During "Rush Hour", Wufei sneered and Duo laughed. During "The Godfather" Wufei was silent in respect of the awesome filming and storytelling -- while Duo fell asleep out of boredom. During "Steel Magnolias" the two were agreed -- both of them wanted to be Ouiser when they were old and gray. [1]

All in all, by the end of the day Duo felt as though Wufei was his friend to a depth he had never felt before. In the Chinese pilot he had found a deeply sarcastic and ironic sense of humor, as well as a respect for the braided boy that Duo had never had before, not from anyone. While it was a far from traditional Christmas -- apart from the cooked breakfast, all they had eaten was popcorn and there was not a hint of a decoration or a present in sight -- it was by far the most enjoyable one Duo could ever remember having. Not only had his prophesied miserable Christmas alone turned out to be completely fake, but he had gained a friend.

"Hey, Wufei?" he said as they were preparing to depart into their separate rooms for the night.

Wufei glanced up from where he was setting the disarrayed couch to rights. "Yes, Duo?"

"Thanks."

"For what?"

"Spending Christmas with me."

Wufei smiled. "You're welcome -- baka."

Duo threw a pillow at his head. That sparked off the second pillow fight of the day -- and inspired them to stay up the rest of the night in each other's company.

~Owari

[1] Ouiser is an elderly woman and a wonderful character, who is best described by the quote from the film below:

Ouiser: In the past few decades I have managed to marry the two most worthless men on the planet and have the three most ungrateful children under the sun. The only reason people are nice to me is because I have more money than God.

M'lin: You sound upset, Ouiser -- maybe you should come down to the clinic for a talk sometime.

Ouiser: M'lin, I am not crazy. I've just been in a very bad mood for forty years.

I want to be like her when I'm old. It would be so much fun. Duke agrees with me, so we're gonna spend our old age in some rickety old house in the Deep South and sit on the front porch hollering at passing teenagers.

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